Sunday, April 21, 2013

Deskilled drawing using gravity

Here I'm using stenciling to create traditional-looking representational drawings that are actually arrived at very differently.  The images look as if they could have been drawn using pencil or charcoal, but are created by the objects as they deflect iron ore particles. 
Heather Lewis, Folded Lace, 2013, (detail)
granular ilmenite, acrylic medium, paper, 17.75 x 15 inches

This is nearer to industrial stenciling processes than the overhead projector drawing, in that it does not involve any hands on adjustments... but it doesn't mean that no skill is involved.  For example Balinese craftsmen deskill the creation of repeat patterns in batik fabric by using preformed stamps, but this is in itself quite a skilled operation. Their process is part of the evolution of unique images into the mass production of fabric lengths. (Note, I'm not interested in replicating images - we already have that in the bag. I'm interested in exploring what non-traditional approaches have to offer drawing itself.) 

Traditional drawings usually need to be "wrestled" into completion. They progress by being continually observed, evaluated and adjusted. Re position certain lines and sections. Make it darker here, add detail there, remove that section completely because it is redundant etc. So, I also had to evaluate the results of my gravity stenciling. Like proofing an artist print I guess. 

Heather Lewis, Brush, granular ilmenite, acrylic medium, paper, 9 x 7.25 inches

In the first few stenciled drawings of each item (not shown here), the image was found to be lacking - it was too pale, not enough contrast and therefore definition of the object. Or it was not composed satisfyingly, etc. As the stenciled drawing is a "one shot" affair, each time I adjusted the process itself I created a new drawing until it met my criteria of worthiness. One difference to the traditional drawing evolution is that the layout of the stenciled drawing is always "correct" - it is directly derived from the object and cannot be otherwise. 

So, the deskilled stenciling process is effective as a means to collect information, and, directed by very traditional decisions, produces what could be seen as a drawing in traditional terms.  

Deskilled drawings - with projections.

To continue exploring stenciling as a process within traditional drawing, I am using an overhead projector to form the original image. 

I discover that this method helps with the layout but does not take skill out the drawing process! It is difficult to draw from a projected image and observation skills still apply as much as they would in any traditional drawing. 

I experiment to find objects that are more than silhouettes. Clear plastic and glass work really well on the overhead as seen below - this is a projection only. No drawing as yet.

 The arches paper roll is 42 inches wide. The image looks great as a projection, I go.
Roughing in was the easy part!  Now with the image generally in place, things get interesting... 

The image below shows projection and drawing occurring at once. As you can imagine, its hard to see what is projected and what is actually drawn. Its essential to evaluate them separately so I use a piece of blank paper to shield the drawing or to reveal the projection by turns.  

I also make many trips back to the projector to switch it off and on, to compare. You really have to scrutinize the drawing to give it the same values and nuances as the projection.

A drawing  is simply a collection of information that echoes optical reality. Put the right combination of light and dark in the right places, in the right shapes, and the illusion "magically" appears. Its a question of getting the exact relationship between these elements.  

Eventually I even projected the image onto the wall next to the paper (this is not shown) and checked it that way too.  Add, erase, adjust. Repeat... 

Finally...its as close as I can get to the original.